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The Annual General Meetings of both Sarba Shanti Ayog and Sasha Association for Craft Producers was held this month as the Sasha head office in Kolkata. Apart from being a statutory requirement, the AGM serves as an important milestone in the financial year of the organizations in terms of review, report and plan ahead through a consultative process with members. This month also witnessed the initiation of a new chapter for SSA, as it ventured onto J & K; Sasha Shop resonated with poetry, verse and music. And there was a fashion show too!
At Sasha, we teach you to live it up and rather beautifully at that, against all the odds that life tends to strew our way. Art is one medium that enables you to do just that. It brings out the rainbow after the showers in our life literarily, just what a Kolkata July - at the peak of the rainy season here, ensures to drown our lives in. On Saturday, the 21st of July, we had a lovely, memorable and cosy evening of poetry and music as the Sasha Shop, which we plan on making a series.
Ms Roopa Mehta – CEO, opened the evening’s events and set the mood - with stimulating few words, before Raghavendra Madhu – our curator for the evening took over. Madhu started one of India’s largest voluntary initiatives ‘Poetry Couture’ – that has been awarded the Microsoft Create to Inspire Fellow Award, 2015; which collaborates with some leading literary festivals in India and with organizations, to use poetry as a tool to advocate human rights, took over. He introduced the young musical band of three men named ‘Dot 3’ that played youthful, Indo-Western, instrumental music. Then the five featured poets read their poems for about 10-15 minutes each, that ranged from light romantic, to serious and hard hitting social issue reminders. This was followed by the Open Mic where several young poets and musicians read their poems. The event closed with another soulful rendition by the Band Dot 3.
Markets and business has been challenging over the last three years but at the same time it gave Sasha the opportunity to show resilience; also using these challenging times to reflect and strategize. While several doors of opportunities have opened for the organization and the network, it will be upto the collective strengthen of both the Sasha team and the producers to capitalize. We are more and more engaging with mainstream ethical markets for exports now; while our Fair Trade partners still remain the core of our business. There is a renewed interest in Sasha and coordination with producers in areas of efficiency, timeliness and quality will bring in positive results. The domestic market looks promising and positive, efforts put in now will show results in the coming two years. Producers need to reflect on wages and costs realistically, while it is a real challenge to cope with pricing in markets for Sasha. Living wages are a serious issue and only a concerted effort can help us achieve. Sasha has a strong relationship with SSA in areas of domestic market expansion and Guarantee System. Our customers, producers and Sasha, all share a common objective. Growing business and complying with Fair Trade standards, go hand in hand for us. While growing business would be our mantra, the WFTO Guarantee System gives us credibility
- Roopa Mehta.
It has been a successful year for SSA and this annual report outlines that we have continued to move ahead in the following areas and is well on its way to address various areas of sectoral importance: Livelihood promotion in handloom and handicrafts sectors; Market-oriented enterprise development; Technical Assistance for small crafts producers; Fair Trade Monitoring and Evaluation; Crafts and Culture. Similarly, SSA also supported and contributed to the market development and strengthening of supply base processes of Sasha Association for Craft Producers and Ruro Agro Services Association. Several NGOs; government departments; academic institutions, resource organizations; corporate agencies; community based organizations; individuals; donors – were part of this process. SSA team takes this opportunity to thank all these members for their support and cooperation. We take this opportunity to thank our partners – Ford Foundation, SOIR-IM, Trade Aid, Indian Institute for Cerebral Palsy and SPAN for partnering with us. I would also like to thank the members of Executive Body for their guidance and support over the years and our team of staff for their commitment and hard work. It gives me great pleasure to report that this hard work and the values of transparency and accountability of the organization have been recognized at a state and national level. SSA has been approached by State Governments and donor agencies to partner in more than three long-term projects. The coming years are extremely promising for SSA in terms of growth, achievements and opportunities
- Sujata Goswami
SSA started functioning as project implementing agency under the Handicrafts Department, J & K sponsored Cluster Development Project, which is a new milestone for SSA that envisages itself as a resource support organization.
In September 2014, the northern region of India experienced torrential monsoon rains in the region causing major flooding and landslides. Due to the tributaries of river Jhelum overflowing nearly 20 districts were impacted. To support the recovery, post the floods, the project Jhelum & Tawi Flood Recovery Project (JTFRP) was initiated with the assistance of the World Bank. The overall objective is “to support the recovery and increasing disaster resilience in Project Areas and increase the capacity of the project Implementing Entity to respond promptly and effectively to an eligible crisis or emergency.”
SSA has been engaged to provide technical support to J& K’s handicraft department for developing the Papier Mache cluster in Srinagar. SSA team had an initial joint visit with the Design Lead & the Livelihood Expert to have a broad understanding of the present ground situation for Scoping. During scoping we did- workshop, filed visit & de-briefing with master artisans. We visited CDI & had meetings with the Director and the Deputy Director of Handicrafts Department, Principal Secy. Industries Dept. J & K.
Later, on the 21st July evening, at 8 P.M, Sasha participated in a designer fashion pageant by eminent T2 Telegraph - ramp models, choreographed by Prithviraj Ghosh of ‘Exposure’. Ours was the last show stopper sequence, among a series of other designers and jewellers of the city, where the 5 female and 2 male models, showcased our silk stoles, ceramic and dhokra jewellery, carrying our hand bags and handicrafts, with the backdrop of lilting music. Karobi Chowdhury, a senior Sasha employee read out our detailed history and initiatives that lead to the beautiful products on display. What set Sasha apart from the rest of the participants, over and above that our sequence was last and the show stopper round, also that the models unlike in the previous sequences wore trendy western wear that highlighted our products rather well, was that the ramp’s backdrop was totally decorated with some of our best dhokra and other handicrafts, bearing placards with the Sasha logo and 40 years artwork. The event almost seemed like an out and out Sasha event. We also had a display and sales stall/table at the further end of the ramp in the hall, where we displayed our entire RASA line of skin care and distributed our product catalogue leaflets.